Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

By Claire
“How would you like to drive the Amalfi Coast?” I asked Chuck. “Um, what about seeing the ruins at Paestum?” he responded. I needed a day off from old stuff and anyway, I had checked the weather and Saturday was supposed to be sunny and warm, perfect for views and strolling. After some discussion, we decided that the 3 hours round trip on a bus would really be fun and way better than doing it ourselves in Homer. The views were supposed to be spectacular and this was yet another of my dreams. We decided to go to Sorrento if it was sunny and Paestum if it was raining.

I had heard about the white knuckle bus ride around hairpin turns but it was such a glorious day from the moment we woke up that I decided to let fate take charge. If the bus went tumbling down the 500 foot cliffs to the sea, at least it would be a beautiful descent. I took way too many pictures; but I’ll spare you with just a few. If you get the chance to take this ride, be sure to sit on the right side heading to Amalfi and on the left side coming back. We lucked out by being off season and going early. The bus was only half full. I’ve heard that during the summer the buses are packed and it is bumper to bumper and very, very slow.

Looking down...ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

We had to laugh as we were leaving Sorrento. The bus driver stopped to answer a long winded question from a passenger, all the while completely holding up traffic in both directions. Along the way I heard Chuck mutter several times, “I’m so glad I didn’t drive this.” It was clear the bus driver knew this route; honking a warning when making a sharp hairpin turn around a blind corner, maneuvering past daring motor scooters coming at us head-on, and inching past parked cars with practiced skill--truly amazing. He seemed cheerful enough too. It did cross my mind, though, that things could go very wrong if he’d had a fight with his wife that morning or his teenage daughter had just given him some bad news. One little jerk of the wheel, and over we’d go.

Visual aid for bus drivers. That's us in the mirror!

Positano—hillside town along the way clinging to the vertical terrain

We passed several shops and markets selling the local oranges and lemons. They are everywhere! In fact, our campground is surrounded by trees loaded with oranges. We even passed a Farmacia Limone, for those suffering lemon withdrawal in the off season.

One hour and 45 minutes later we pulled into Amalfi Town right by the water’s edge. We looked around for the perfect place to plant ourselves and found the Lido Restaurant, right on the beach. It wasn’t really open but the nice owner said we could have drinks and that’s just what we wanted; that and the fabulous view.

Amalfi Town

Cappuccino—with chocolate. They always add this now that we are south of Rome. The delicious lemon cookies came with our drinks.

Amalfi Town—coffee view

Where was this when I needed it?

And now, step away from your computer. Pack your bags and get yourself to this area as soon as you can. The further south we go, the better we like it.

The ride back with a different driver was more in line with the white knuckle ride. Even though we were on the inside going back, he drove much faster and took those turns a little wildly. I was expecting him to take the side off the bus on the rocky hillside. It really was amazing how close he came when passing other vehicles, including other buses of the same size, honking and waving at each other during the process. We made it back in one hour and 15 minutes. Wow! But, we were still smiling.

On the bus

And just so you know, this was not a special tour bus, just a local bus, though quite comfortable with high back seats and huge windows. On our way back, a number of teenagers and local people got on, getting off at various stops along the way.

We decided to try a special lunch in Sorrento. Struggling once again to find a specific restaurant, only to see if off in the far distance (binoculars would have helped), we headed back toward the center of town and settled on an inviting looking place, Taverna dell’800, “the only real typical 18th century tavern in town!” It was cozy inside and the service was warm and friendly. We started with an antipasto, to share, of grilled vegetables and buffalo mozzarella with basil. Delicious, of course. Chuck ordered cannelloni, still bubbling when it arrived.

I ordered the fish in lemon juice since Sorrento is known for its lemons. Wonderful!

We ended with Tiramisu.

We hated it.

Ten minutes after leaving, we were both in need of a WC. However, just like home, when you’re out and about, you can never find one when you need it. Brazenly walking into another restaurant just doesn’t feel right, especially when there is a greeter out front. We did finally find one at the train station after asking 3 people. But, along the way, Chuck was charging along—was it desperate need, or his typical brisk style?—when off the curb he slipped and down he went. While I was bent over him, a nice Italian man rushed to his side and helped him up. Oh, the challenges of travel.

We plan to head to Paestum tomorrow with lots of ruins to trip over.

Do you know the land where the lemons are in flower?
In the green leaves golden oranges shine
A quiet wind blows from the blue sky
Quiet is the myrtle, serene the laurel
Do you know it well?
There, there
I would like with you, my love, to go!
~ J. W. Goethe


Bob said...

Maybe dance classes would help or is it the fault of progressive lenses?

Kim said...

So did you mean you wanted the sun shade on the lounge, or the guy on the lounge!

Chuck and Claire said...

Dance lessons would help; progressives could be partially to blame; but, patience and mindfulness on my part would be better.

Chuck and Claire said...

Chuck asked me the same question!